New SCADA features and functions, Part 3

In an August 15, 2023 webcast, "SCADA series: New SCADA features and functions," Avanceon’s Matt Ruth joined Control Engineering to share a case study of SCADA innovations undertaken for a major wastewater system. Read part 3 of the edited transcript below.

By Control Engineering February 19, 2024
Courtesy: Control Engineering

SCADA insights

  • In an August 15, 2023 webcast, “SCADA series: New SCADA features and functions,” Avanceon’s Matt Ruth and Nicholas Imfeld joined Control Engineering to discuss the key innovations in SCADA software packages that can improve efficiency and outcomes for end-users.

  • In Part 3, Matt Ruth, President at Avanceon, shares a case study of SCADA innovations undertaken for a major wastewater system.

  • Read Part 1 for more information on the common drivers of SCADA system upgrades, Part 2 for more information on the key SCADA features that can make an upgrade worth the investment, and Part 4 for information covered during the webcast’s live question and answer session.

Software for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) has advanced to provide greater capabilities with less programming. What are key traits of SCADA software packages that make an upgrade worth the investment? Advantages include integration of certain standards; built-in communications and connections to other devices, software and systems; extensive libraries of code; integration with cloud capabilities; easier porting to mobile clients; and analytics. In an August 15, 2023 webcast, “SCADA series: New SCADA features and functions,” subject matter experts joined Control Engineering to discuss these topics and more. The featured webcast instructors were:

  • Matt Ruth, President, Avanceon
  • Nicholas Imfeld, Operations Manager, Avanceon
Courtesy: Control Engineering

Courtesy: Control Engineering

Below, the transcript of their presentations has been provided with minor edits and adaptations.

Wastewater system upgrade

Matt Ruth: I’d like to share a customer’s perspective on implementing a SCADA system upgrade. As mentioned earlier, outdated SCADA systems offer significant opportunities for innovation. They provide a chance to leapfrog years of stagnation in technology, propelling us into the forefront of modern advancements.

We recently collaborated with a major wastewater system on a significant upgrade. Their SCADA system, designed 40 years ago, was not just outdated in terms of hardware but also in its overall approach. This scenario is common in the water and wastewater industry, particularly due to the surge in investment during the late ’70s and early ’80s following the Clean Water Act. Today, many of these systems require substantial upgrades. Our client had five plants operating on outdated systems from the ’80s.

In this project, we developed design standards and methodologies for replacing existing systems and strategized a ‘hot cutover’ process. We had to ensure a continuous operation, because critical functions such as the ability of toilets to flush were reliant on this wastewater system. The design standards and methodologies were adapted to meet these constraints. We began implementation at the most complex facility, adhering to the principle of tackling the most challenging aspects first to glean learnings for subsequent rollouts. Staff trained in the upgraded system at the first facility were then involved in implementing the upgrades at the remaining plants, facilitating change management and knowledge transfer.

The techniques and approaches demonstrated in this presentation were fully utilized in this upgrade. Customer feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The IT director praised the system’s cybersecurity, emphasizing the importance of a robust physical, virtual and procedural model. This integration with their IT model brought peace of mind regarding safety and security.

From a plant operations perspective, the upgrade provided crucial information accessibility and situational awareness. A significant weather event highlighted the system’s advantages. Traditionally, staff had to physically monitor pump stations during such events. However, with the new SCADA system, they could remotely monitor all systems, manage resources effectively, and ensure staff safety.

The operational program manager overseeing the network of five facilities expressed satisfaction with the transition of institutional knowledge from individuals to the technology. This reduced dependency on specific personnel and facilitated easier adoption of the system by new staff. Overall, the project laid a solid foundation for future advancements in SCADA, aligning with Industry 4.0 technologies.

To summarize, today’s discussion covered the significant advantages of upgrading to modern SCADA systems. The cost of inaction has both tangible and intangible impacts on operations. Engaging in an upgrade offers a quick return on investment and a platform for continuous innovation. For those considering an upgrade or developing new systems, I encourage you to seize the opportunities presented by obsolescence or new initiatives. View SCADA not just as a component but as a crucial part of your process equipment, integral to the success of your operations. Embrace it as a reliable source of truth and leverage it as a transformative efficiency tool.